Roxann Swanson of Nortel Networks
Q. Tell us a little about your background and how you ventured into speech at Nortel Networks?
A. My background has been in sales and marketing in both the Enterprise Networks and Wireless market segments. Because of my leadership style and my strong background in dealing with customers, Nortel Networks felt the Multimedia Applications line of business would benefit. Since communication applications are so customer oriented, especially from the speech solutions aspect, it has been a very positive move both for me personally as well as for Nortel Networks.
Q. What suggestions would you provide to companies who are implementing speech solutions?
A. The three most important criteria in selecting a vendor are experience, experience and experience.
Enterprises need to work with vendors that offer deployment choice and flexibility. Vendors should be able to create and deploy dozens of customized advanced speech recognition applications, with experience across several industries, including transportation, banking, brokerage, insurance, public utility, government, and telecommunications. However, the vendor should also have an application portfolio that consists of a large number of standardized applications, such that the design, coding and testing have been completed; for some settings, all that should be needed are specific prompts or host interfaces to deploy an application in a customer's environment.
Our approach is to really work with our customers to truly understand the customer experience they are looking to deploy. We spend much of the implementation and design phase in discussions to get this piece right the first time.
Q. Please share with us recent examples of how speech improved customer service for one of your clients and why they thought it was successful.
A. The most exciting deployment of the past 12 months was the comprehensive customer service application at one of the largest financial institutions in the world. It's our understanding that this was the largest single deployment in the history of speech-enabled applications - essentially the size of eight to 10 large, complex deployments. It's a unified interface to every one of the bank's customer service functions. The system is planned to handle over 600 million calls a year - 4000 toll free numbers are combined into one solution. Once a customer enters the application they can access any information relevant to their account(s) without having to re-enter, revalidate and reorient themselves to different instructions - a very positive enhancement to the customer experience for this customer.
This system is being systematically deployed throughout the bank's North American regions. Currently it is yielding over 70 percent self-service efficiency and every percent efficiency gain is worth millions of dollars in operating savings.
Q. What are you seeing as pivotal factors organizations cite for deploying speech technologies?
A. The biggest change in the speech market is the adoption of standards, such as voice extensible markup language (VXML), which enables voice interfaces for speech recognition. Speech is being used across our entire portfolio of multimedia applications as a tool for expedited user interface capabilities (i.e. IVR, Unified Messaging, etc). Nortel Networks will also be releasing leading edge products that will allow organizations to successfully adopt a comprehensive, Web-centric approach to augment their self-service customer interfaces. Our customers have the benefit of starting as modestly as a single contact center or as ambitiously as a global, multimedia implementation with thousands of users. No matter the starting point, they are assured that each investment made in Nortel Networks products or services will integrate seamlessly both today and in the future.
As enterprise communication needs evolve to a model of increased customer, partner and supplier engagement, and as employee needs for more flexibility and simplified communications grow, enterprises need solutions such as speech recognition and contact center tools to help them improve employee productivity, lower operational costs, increase revenue, and improve the overall customers experience. Most importantly, enterprises can no longer put on the back burner solutions that will enable consistent, quality communications, which improve relationships with customers, drive increased loyalty and in turn, improve return on relationships. With world-class speech recognition, contact center solutions, and unified messaging solutions, customers report significant reductions in transaction costs and improved customer satisfaction.
Q. Discuss Nortel Networks role in deploying speech solutions. Who are some of your partners and how did you choose them to be partners?
A. Nortel Networks can provide the technology components and services necessary to deploy and maintain a speech solution. We offer IVR platforms with host and telephony interfaces and a superior speech-processing server, along with full project life cycle implementation and support. We have a dedicated team of user interface designers, speech scientists, application developers and CTI specialists to provide full turn key solutions. In addition, we offer networking, communications and call center management products and have proven expertise in end-to-end project management, installation and ongoing maintenance. Nortel Networks can provide all the elements and expertise required to deploy an advanced speech application, with one exception; we license the underlying speech technology from the industry leaders like Scansoft and Nuance.
Nortel Networks works with additional partners to assist in the sales, installation and ongoing maintenance of one or more of the components of such a solution. Partners are selected - and accredited - based on their expertise and resources in different disciplines.
Q. What is on the horizon from Nortel Networks as it relates to speech?
A. In terms of growth technologies for the enterprise, speech recognition and contact center solutions are poised for a breakthrough. According to a recent Gartner report, "Speech Recognition Telephony Software: Worldwide 2002-2007," the speech recognition market is expected to reach $130 million by year end 2003 and is on pace to reach more than $258 million by 2007, with call center and business portal applications the largest segments for adoption.
Nortel Networks multimedia applications allow companies of all sizes to remain competitive by eliminating business, technical and geographic boundaries and form a cooperative, agile business infrastructure. All our solutions are scalable and of the highest quality. The applications in my purview are in the forefront of the customer and employee communication engagement process and must be available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. This includes contact centers, self-service and business applications like unified messaging and multimedia collaboration strategically developed to improve this communication engagement. We expect to continue to utilize the power of speech wherever possible to improve the overall customer experience of our applications.